From Timothy Pickering
Department of State March 22. 1796.
The President is anxious to ascertain whether the gentlemen he has thought of for Commissioners under the 6th & 7th articles of the British treaty1 will accept of those employments. He has concluded to appoint Egbert Benson Esqr.2 one of the Commissioners for executing the 6th article, relative to the debts owing to British subjects—if he will accept of the employment. He is held in such high estimation for his abilities & integrity, as to render it extremely desirable that the appointment might meet his acceptance. The compensation will not be less than £1000. sterling a year; & it may rise to £1500: we do not yet know what agreement will be made on this head, under the 8th article of the treaty.3 The continuance of the employment you and he can judge of better than I. Whether he can hold his present office of Judge on the New-York Bench and the office of commissioner, at the same time, you and he can also determine. But should his acceptance of the latter employment necessarily vacate his seat on that bench, it would naturally conduct him to one more important—in the supreme court of the U.States.
I forbear to intimate any other considerations to induce Mr. Benson’s acceptance of the proposed office: you will more accurately estimate every motive of expedience and public utility which can properly influence his decision.
I hope Judge Benson is in New-York that his immediate determination may be given; if not, you will be so obliging as to write to him for the purpose. In the mean time the President will be obliged by your acknowledging the receipt of this letter, and embracing the earliest moment to communicate Judge Benson’s decision.4
I am with sincere respect & esteem yours
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress; copy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
1. For the text of Article 6 of the Jay Treaty, which dealt with the pre-Revolutionary debts owed by Americans to British merchants, and of Article 7, which dealt with the capture and condemnation of United States vessels by the British during the war between Great Britain and revolutionary France, see “Remarks on the Treaty … between the United States and Great Britain,” July 9–11, 1795, notes 13 and 39.
2. Benson, a New York City attorney, was attorney general of New York from 1777 to 1788, a member of the Assembly from 1777 to 1781 and in 1788, a member of the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1788, an associate judge of the New York Supreme Court from 1794 to 1801, a member of the New York Ratifying Convention in 1788, and a member of the House of Representatives from 1789 to 1793.
3. For the text of Article 8 of the Jay Treaty, see “Remarks on the Treaty … between the United States and Great Britain,” July 9–11, 1795, note 42.
4. Benson declined the appointment. On March 31, 1796, the President nominated Thomas FitzSimons of Pennsylvania and James Innes of Virginia as the United States representatives on the debt commission, and the Senate confirmed the appointments on the following day (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 204, 205). See also George Washington to Innes, April 4, 1796 (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress); Timothy Pickering to Innes, April 6, 1796 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 9, October 12, 1795–February 28, 1797, National Archives); and Innes to Washington, April 8, 1796 (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).
Subsequently, Benson agreed to serve on the St. Croix boundary commission authorized by Article 5 of the Jay Treaty. See Pickering to Benson, September 10, 1796 (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 9, October 12, 1795–February 28, 1797, National Archives); Pickering to Washington, September 20, 1796 (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives).